Mental health: Stakeholders welcome policy implementation

Mental health: Stakeholders welcome policy implementation
L-R Idah Asin from Johnson & Johnson, Regional Director of Government Affairs & Policy confers with the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Susan Mochache at the sidelines of the inaugural Kenya Mental Health Conference. PHOTO| COURTESY

Challenges associated with mental health lead to economic losses at a national level as the productive human resource base is eroded.

These were the sentiments expressed by the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Health Susan Mochache at the inaugural Kenya Mental Health Conference which saw participants drawn from government, private sector, civil society, healthcare professional from all over the country.

The Conference, organized by the Ministry of Health and supported by Johnson &Johnson among others, highlighted that the full implementation of the National Mental Health Policy 2015-2030 will provide a platform to roll back existing mental health challenges.

Speaking on the side-lines of the ongoing conference, Johnson & Johnson Regional Director of Government Affairs & Policy Ms. Idah Asin, said the implementation of the national mental health policy will create a sustainable response mechanism across the local health system including resource mobilization and capacity and awareness building.

“At Johnson & Johnson, we welcome this multi sectoral conference which is a timely intervention to help address mental health issues which require a concerted effort,” Ms Asin said, adding that, “The Mental Health Conference 2019, a precedent unto itself, seeks to drag this long due discussion straight to the forefront.”

“Not only are we creating a forum bringing together key stakeholders for the discussion of mental healthcare in Kenya, but accelerating consultative effort geared towards the finalization of a strategic action plan for the implementation of the country’s mental health policy,” added Ms Asin.

Details contained in the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030, confirm that it is estimated that up to 25% of outpatients and up to 40% of in-patients in health facilities suffer from mental conditions.

At the global stage, mental health is an integral component of the Sustainable Development Goals. Equally it forms part of the Universal Healthcare Agenda that the Government of Kenya is working towards achieving for its people; with President Uhuru Kenyatta recently directing that appropriate measures be put in place towards the implementation of the mental health policy.

The Sustainable Development goals enshrines the critical role of partnerships in addressing the global, regional and country specific challenges. The right partnerships are needed to address the burden of Mental Health Illness and promote overall wellbeing.

Janssen Kenya Country Manager Mr. Marseille Onyango, said the pharmaceutical firm, will continue to support national efforts to di-stigmatise mental health by support awareness and capacity building initiatives such as the ongoing conference.

“As a player in the pharma industry, it is only prudent for us to join forces in the national mental health policy rollout agenda as we aspire for better health outcomes for all,” said Onyango, adding that: “Janssen has a strong heritage in neuroscience and we are a proud pioneer in the field. It is our mission to reduce the burden, disability and devastation caused by mental health disorders and transform individual lives.”

In keeping with the Kenya’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda, Johnson & Johnson has forged partnerships with various stakeholders in mental health with the aim of developing sustainable and scalable initiatives that will ensure equitable access to these critical solutions that save lives, cure patients and prevent disease of those most in need

Through its Global Public Health (GPH) function, J&J tackles the world’s toughest challenges and working with global and local partners and is committed to pioneering and sustainably delivering meaningful and transformational products

Speaking at the Event, Dr. Kivwanga Mwaniki, and The Johnson & Johnson GPH Mental Health Global Execution Lead noted that; we must boldly confront the reality that close to 90% of persons with mental illness live in low and middle income countries like Kenya, and nearly 80% of them are not accessing health care. This calls for concerted partnerships and action to make mental health services accessible and affordable.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Virginia Smith -Swintosky, Johnson & Johnsons’ GPH Mental Health Global Program Leader stated: “Johnson & Johnson is committed to developing an affordable, scalable model for the treatment of Schizophrenia in Kenya and beyond, with the goal of expanding into other resource limited settings.’’

Locally, Johnson & Johnson, working closely with mental health stakeholders is working to bridge the gap by generating data on the prevalence and burden of mental illness on the healthcare system to better inform government policies and resourcing. The firm is also working on the Integration of community based mental healthcare options into the primary care system to enable early access to treatment and continuity of care. Access to both essential and innovative medicines that are affordable, authentic and consistently available to help patients better manage their illness and lead healthier productive lives is also a key focus area for the firm.

On its part, the Government has commitment to implementing health system reforms to accelerate movement towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The approach is centred on critical drivers for expanding the population access to basic health interventions.

These include mental health services now available under UHC at the community level. The services cover education and awareness on mental health, community screening, psychosocial intervention such as counselling and care coordination with follow-ups by community or social workers.

Others are facility-based services that encompass consultations, examination, diagnosis, clinical interventions and rehabilitation.

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